New ideas give me a rush. They flood in and overwhelm all other thoughts, consuming my ability to focus on whatever task I was doing at the time. To make the most of a good idea when it comes, I drop the mundane and chase the possibilities.
“That would make a fantastic website.”
“This is a story I need to write.”
“Why hadn’t I thought of that sooner; I must get started RIGHT NOW.”
New ideas make me feel alive, as if I might still have something to contribute to this old world. Why keep plodding through an unfinished task, a report about yesterday, that letter I’m tired of writing, this data-collection scheme weighing down my eyelids? Finishing things is boring; I want to devour freshness.
Why? Because a sense of accomplishment never gets stale. In fact, it lets me sleep at night. After I finish a task I hear things such as, “take a break,” “time to celebrate,” and “good job.” And because every idea is virtually worthless until it reaches completion.
So, what to do?
There is a way to trap the ideas so they don’t get away, without having to act on each one the second it develops:
Write them down.
For those who get explosive torrents or regular good ones each day, take this advice to the next level: Start an Idea Journal. A simple spiral-bound tablet will do. Record the date if you want, but more importantly, document your thoughts. Write down enough information so that you can recall not just the concept but also the enthusiasm and emotion and the reason for the urgency.
Put the paper aside and go back to what you were doing. Then, on those days when nothing comes, open the journal and be inspired.
Humans are losing their sense of accomplishment because our brains are evolving with technology. This is especially true for the brain that grew up with computers. We are increasing our ability to process multiple streams of information at once, but we are decreasing our ability to focus. This is great for starting things, but not so great for finishing them. Still, we need to close the books, tie up the lose ends, and put the laundry away.
This blog post is an example of the “save it for later” technique I am suggesting. The premise originally flashed through my brain in October 2014, while I was updating the html code on my Website (boring). A few days ago, knowing it was time to post to the blog, I was burned out and empty. I opened my folder, plucked out a concept, and suddenly I was back on track. Not only did I successfully finish updating the navigation links at www.thewritebeat.com, I have completed this post, and thus can now celebrate two minor-but-mighty accomplishments.